Lasith Malinga had to head home earlier in the week following the death of his mother-in-law but he returned to England early despite being given an extra two days off. His dedication to join the team in their preparations for the big game against England, and his performance in the match – given the circumstances – was a good example for the rest of the team, said Dimuth Karunaratne, who mentioned that the pacer brought all his experience into play – which was was key in how things panned out for Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka captain was lavish in his praise of Malinga, who bagged crucial wickets to change the flow of the game that was going England’s way at one stage. Malinga’s figures of 4 for 43, combined with Dhananjaya de Silva’s 3 for 32 helped Sri Lanka upset the hosts in a thrilling finish, with Ben Stokes’s unbeaten 82 going in vain.“I think he’s [Malinga] a legend. He know what he has to do. Whatever he does, he is doing his best, so that is why I said, if he wants to go home and come back, that’s fine. So I think he did that and he came back again and he gave a good example for the rest of the guys. He just keeps doing what he knows, that is the main thing, the basic things,” said the Sri Lanka captain following his team’s 20-run victory over tournament favourites England.“We thought if we hang in there, we definitely have a chance. We need to get a couple of wickets and we win the game – that’s what I told my boys. Keep hanging there, one or two wickets. If you can get one or two wickets, you can win the game,” he said.
On a wicket that wasn’t easy for the stroke-makers, Karunaratne noted that Angelo Mathews played a key role in Sri Lanka finishing with a total of 232, something they were satisfied with even though they were aiming at 300-plus at one stage. Stressing on the experience aspect yet again, Karunaratne credited Mathews for his assessment of the pitch as well as sticking around and helping his team post a competitive total.“We thought it was a good, flat wicket, it would come nicely, but when you play, it was seaming a bit in the first few overs, and then suddenly it’s a bit slower and slower. We took some advice from Angelo, he said ‘It’s getting slower and slower’. So he said we couldn’t get 280-300, but if you can get 250-240, it’s a good total on this wicket.
“He [Mathews] knew how to play. I think he is a good finisher, he did really well, a good job, and hit his area really very well on this track, I think that is what he did. And all of the middle-order batsmen contributed really well once the openers went early, I think they did a good job,” said Karunaratne.
While the victory has helped Sri Lanka keep their hopes afloat, Karunaratne isn’t thinking too far ahead and wants to take it one match at a time.